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on 15 May 2012
I discovered Robinson's work back in the eighties when i read, and thoroughly enjoyed, "Piece of Cake". Since then I've read all of his flight novels plus a good deal of his other works and I've never been disappointed. He has a dry, terse style which acts as the perfect framework for a sense of humour that moves from slapstick to corrosive anger in a heartbeat. He clearly has a well formed and very healthy lack of respect for the "stuffed shirts" who always crop up in his work, although he rarely creates a duff cliche of a character, he prefers instead to create real people and give them exasperating and sometimes abhorrent qualities and leave us, the readers, to decide if they're truly villainous or not.

This story is a bit of a mixed bag. It crackles with dark, sometimes despairing humour about the lunacy of the nuclear stand-off and the unreal position of the aircrew, the "Poor Bloody Infantry" at the sharp end, who were expected to drop the bombs and launch the missiles to uphold the political and military posturing of the world leaders in their blast proof bunkers.

In terms of plot, the story develops quite slowly and the ending is a bit limp, and initially I felt cheated. Then I realised that this is not another brain-dead "Let's find the lost secret of Atlantis" type yarn, but rather a snapshot of an impression of what it was like to be part of that surreal life, in those aeroplanes, in those days, bearing the appalling responsibility of, potentially, dropping a bomb that would kill millions. And never asking the question that had no answer anyway - "Why?"

If you are the sort of person who thinks that novels with an aeroplane on the cover should be either fast moving adventures or drippy soaps, then this is not for you. On the other hand, if you are the sort of person who likes modern history and sometimes wonders what it was like to be there, in those days and doing those things, then you should definitely give this book a go.
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on 5 November 2014
Great story and historically interesting
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on 16 April 2012
Perhaps surprisingly for an author who was on the Booker prize shortlist (for Hornet Squadron) and who's best work (Piece of Cake) was made into a huge budget TV series in the 1980's Derek Robinson was unable to get a publishing deal for this book. As a big fan of his other works I got a self-published copy from the author himself & swapped a few emails with him (and found him a thoroughly nice guy incidentally) so its great to see that a publisher finally has put the book on general availability.

Although I enjoyed Hullo Russia, Goodbye England sadly I think its a missed opportunity: Robinson clearly wanted to write a book about the RAF during the cuban missile crisis. Potentially this is a great scenario... despite the obvious tension at the time the RAF didn't disperse to their alternative runways suggesting that they felt WW3 wasn't as imminent as popular myth today would have us believe. However pilots were still sleeping by their aircraft, engines were primed and ready to fire & nuclear weapons were released from their stores & ready to be used in anger. Unfortunately rather than play on the stress & drama of the situation Robinson instead focuses on the farce & stupidity of it (as with piece of cake) & there simply isn't enough black comedy and high ranking stupidity to make a full novel. There's little in the way of plot and the novel is narrative driven. Reusing previous characters doesn't help much either.

Perhaps because of lack of Vulcan action the book starts with Flt Lt Silk flying for a rather dubious CIA owned airline before rejoining the RAF... there's actually much more potential for a novel in this than the later cold war V bomber bits.

Quite surprisingly (because its quite accurately written)Robinson has never been inside a Vulcan and doesn't seem to have had much experience of seeing them in action. Without spoiling the plot too much he told me that he thought he 'might have overdone the ending a bit' putting the Vulcan through some acrobatics. In actual fact I've SEEN three Vulcans in formation doing far more extreme low level moves. What he suggested was really quite normal flying. It does suggest that a bit of imput from some former Vulcan crew and a visit to any of the half dozen or so at museums open to the public (I'd suggest Newark, Carlisle or Sunderland) might have enhanced the book.

This review actually reads harsher than I intended. Hullo Russia, Goodbye England really isn't a bad book but its not up to previous standards so its one for the fans of Robinson's older works rather than anything that would really tempt a new reader to go on to read his back catalogue.
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on 6 January 2013
Fans of Robinson's flying novels will not be disappointed, but Hullo Russia has more facets than it's predecessor Damned Good Show. Bomber Command is at the center of the novel, and as usual, Robinson offers an alternative view of the daily life of aircrew training for war. Black humor is an essential part of it, and no character offers more in the way of funny commentary than Flt. Lt. Silko, who finds his way into a Vulcan cockpit. The stage is set for a slanted look at one of the most bizarre war strategies of all time - Mutual Assured Destruction. Hullo Russia offers both detailed descriptions of all the hazards (and thrills) of flying Britain's top nuclear bomber, and the incredible political backdrop that made it possible for a generation of commanders to believe they were safe as long as they had more nukes than the Soviets. While being loaded with memorable characters and witty aircrew banter, Hullo Russia also manages to take the reader deep inside the mind of Silko - a rare treat, as Robinson's air warriors usually don't survive long enough for us to get to know them well. Fans will love it, but newcomers to these flying novels will want to read Damned Good Show and/or Piece of Cake first, in order to get acquainted with some of the characters.
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on 30 January 2014
I have mixed feelings about this book. It was engaging enough for me to finish it but the characters just didn’t ring true. They didn’t seem to have much depth.

Silk, the protagonist, only spoke in unfunny quips; he rarely had a straight thing to say about anything. During the war, as his friends died around him, he shrugged off their loss too easily. It’s made clear in the narrative that this was a deliberate self-preservation ploy but I just didn’t buy it. There didn’t seem to be any mourning whatsoever, just more witticisms. This became grating after a while.

His wife Zoe, originally married to Silks best friend (killed over Germany - not a spoiler), was typical of wealthy females as I recall them portrayed in early post war films; flamboyant, bubbly, arch and knowing. Jolly too, aren’t I darling? and beautiful of course. It’s clear that she and Silk were fond of each other but I didn’t feel any real connection between them. Each entered into an affair too casually and shrugged off the knowledge of each other’s dalliance too easily.

There were some nicely written descriptions of the Lancaster and the Vulcan though. This was really what I bought the book for in the first place; it was the characters and dialogue that left me cold.

Authors are entitled to a misfire every now and again and having already read and thoroughly enjoyed Goshawk Squadron I fully intend to give this writers other works a go.
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on 27 August 2012
As a former cold war pilot, I really rated this book. Definitely worth a read. I always wondered what made the guys who would actually have to deliver Nukes tick, and this gives a surprisingly good insight.
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on 9 December 2012
Derek Robinson has written some amazing books. This may not be as graphic, gripping or fast moving but its well worth the read and as with every other of his books leaves you wanting more
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on 24 December 2012
Well written and good reflection of working on V Force. I remember having 3 days on abbreviations and jargon prior to joining Vulcan Squadron.
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on 26 February 2014
Derek Robinson carries on with this book in the same style as the previous WW2 series. This is a wonderful story of one of the remaining pilots of Hornet Squadron (Silko) and his attempts to fit into post WW2 life. Brilliant story line and thoroughly good read. It helps to have read the previous books in the series, but can be read as a stand alone book.
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on 19 October 2014
Entertaining but not historically accurate.

He captures the ethos of the V Force, I knew characters such as he describes.

Targets were never discussed outside study rooms and certainly never in the simulator. The early similar had no reception or visuals. Blue Steel was as much later. The early Vulcan could not fly as high. We certainly had an ex-Lancaster navigator as Intelligence Officer but never as senior as a wg cdr.

Vetting was an everyday thing but very low key. We certainly had an officer grounded and posted for marrying a Yugoslav.

Irrelevant to the story were details of the Vulcan's weight and performance and therefore inexcusable to get these details so wrong. The aircraft weighed around 50 tons empty and up to no more than 105 tons fuelled and loaded with a Blue Steel. The power from all four engines was from 20 tons for a Mk1 up to 40 tons for a Mk2.

So the novel captures the ethos of the V Force is a light hearted read with serious undertones.
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